Thailand’s rising pro-democracy movement has seen hundreds of thousands of protestors take to the streets in fierce opposition to the military government and the royal establishment this year. A key part of the movement’s unprecedented growth is the popularity of social media in the country, where about 75 percent of people are active social media users. But platforms like Twitter and Facebook are subject to increasing pressure by the government and authorities, posing a threat to a young movement that heavily relies on digital activism to spread and thrive. Perhaps the most surprising targets are dating apps such as Tinder, where government power is intruding into even relatively private online spaces.
The recent wave of protests has three core demands: the dissolution of the parliament, ending the intimidation of citizens, and a new constitution. Some protesters have issued a more controversial set of 10 demands for reforming the monarchy and its highly patriarchal structures. But the silencing of dissenting voices is a long-lasting tradition in Thailand. Social media and other forms of digital communications are strictly monitored by police, military, security agencies and private ultra-royalist groups. In a number of cases, publishing content online that “causes public unrest” or “threatens national security” has led to public harassment, arbitrary detention, and even enforced disappearances.